Sunday, October 04, 2009

Nick Vujicic and Conference

Before I talk about Conference, there are a couple of things I've been thinking about over the past week or two. The first is my annoyance with all the requirements you have to fulfill in order to keep your faith. You have to read scriptures in various groupings (individual, family), pray in various ways (family, individual, couple, meals), pay tithing, attend church, attend the temple, serve, love, etc., etc., etc. Even though the Church doesn't have any mechanism for requiring these, everyone pretty much agrees that if you don't do these things, you'll lose your testimony. I've felt like it's ridiculous, and that if testimonies were real, we would maintain our faith regardless of what we do.

But I realized that's not some conspiracy of the LDS Church to keep us locked into the mold. It's a human principle. If you are a runner and you get to a point where you can run 8-minute miles, and then you slack off and stop running entirely or even start skipping runs and workouts here and there, you WILL lose ability. You will slow down and lose endurance. If you go long enough without a run, you'll probably lose the ability to run entirely. Of course once you start back up again, everything comes back fast. This seems to be true of everything in life. If you abandon your viola, you won't sound so good when you pick it up 5 years later. I've hated when they say that a testimony is found in the bearing of it. That sounds so false. But then I thought about studying language or dancing. You can read Spanish or read about dance moves all you want, but until you start speaking it or doing it, you're not really going to learn anything. I believe the testimony principle is similar. Before, I was beginning to believe that doing all those 'basics' was just a plot to keep us all active for whatever reason. But now I believe that that's just life, and it truly is for our benefit.

The second thing I've been thinking about is that I want to do life BY MYSELF. I do not want to have to be reliant on anyone, even Jesus Christ or God. I want to be independent. I don't think I should have to rely on anyone else.

I already posted this on Facebook, but in the last week, I discovered Nick Vujicic. He was born with no arms and no legs. He is now evangelical Christian and is a motivational speaker. I was so inspired by his speaking. He went through years and years lacking faith, but then gained the faith he has now. He attributes his joy to his changed heart and belief in God. His whole message is inspiring, but there was one little part that hit me because it specifically addressed what I was thinking about. I can't find the YouTube video where I saw him say it, but he talks about how the world is teaching us now that we do not need to rely on God, and THAT IS A LIE. When he said that, I knew that I had been thinking the exact same thing, and it hit me that he is probably right. I'm not 100% there yet, but I think he's probably right.

I was pretty disappointed to find out that Nick spoke in Utah (at the Tabernacle and at some other churches) last month, just a few weeks before I discovered him.

Here is a 4-part talk by Nick:

I always look forward to Conference, and it seems to go by SO fast, and I only hear 10% of what I want to. I don't ever have time to watch movies, but my kids watch a lot, and so maybe we're just used to 2 hours at a time flying by. And as for not hearing it, at one point I even threatened that the next person to speak would get sent to their room ☺

It's so true that each person will hear what they need. I don't know if my faithful friends heard this, but to me, nearly every talk was directed to or mentioned nonbelievers/unbelievers/struggling believers. So many topics of concern to me were addressed. I loved Eldar Bednar's talk -- so much good stuff, and so comforting for parents of normal children! Elder Oaks' talk was one that I didn't hear much of, but it seemed harsh to me, because he called out things that I struggle with. For example, I do think that a loving God would not keep a family apart because they weren't sealed for many reasons. (I haven't reconciled that belief with the Church's doctrine yet.) But I didn't hear the whole talk -- I need to go over it again before I decide what I really think of it. I didn't take notes, so I can't discuss very many points specifically, but I really enjoyed most of the talks and felt that every one was directed to me in a way that could help me. When the doctor spoke about missing church for a nap, I am afraid that I could not relate with him. Whenever I've left sacrament meeting in a fit of craziness because the kids refuse to cooperate, and I've gone home to take a nap, I've NEVER not been able to sleep. It's more like I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow and I'm so grateful for the extra time ☺

It seems that I am at a crossroads. I don't see myself staying where I'm at, dissatisfied and struggling. I will either leave the Church, or gain a new kind of faith in the LDS Church. If I had to guess right now, I think that I will choose the second -- a new faith. For many years, I'm not sure how far back, I've pictured myself leaving the Church. It was always something far off in the future. So it is possible I could go down that road. But right now, I'm thinking I won't. I love so much about the Church, regardless of the doctrines I struggle with.

Though I have not listened to the podcasts the Faithful Dissident references, she perfectly describes how I feel. I love the final quote:
"It's not about "getting my faith back." My old orthodox faith is gone and it's never coming back. But a renaissance is possible. And who knows what it will look like then."

I didn't hear this part of the talk myself, but I understand that President Uchtdorf spoke about focusing on doctrine, and not the man-made add ons. I love that, and I think that is going to be key in my new faith. I have always been a very black and white type of person, and I believed that pretty much everything the Church released to us (in Conference, lesson manuals, letters, magazines, etc.) was True Doctrine. But last week I stumbled across an article on Imperfect Scriptures at Mormon Times. It helped assuage some of my concerns, but even better, it led me to a book the author wrote, called Shaken Faith Syndrome. He has posted a sample chapter on his website. I haven't bought the book yet, but the sample chapter, which is on Confusing Tradition with Doctrine, has some great stuff. He gives examples of how traditions can turn into perceived doctrines. He says that he believes that very few LDS teachings qualify as true doctrines. Reading this was an epiphany for me. I know that I can't write off everything I don't agree with as 'not doctrine', but the concept is absolutely worth exploring.


Ramon said...

I liked your comments about the Faithful Dissedent. I'm actually involved in a blog group that involves her, she is quite smart. As for your desire to develop a new faith in the church, you have more faith than I, and I am amazed you will put for the effort, as it is something that I am no longer willing to do. I'm just glad you realize, as was demonstrated in your blog, that just because you aren't LDS, doesn't mean you are a bad person.

Katie said...

"just because you aren't LDS, doesn't mean you are a bad person."

Well, you know that more than half my friends in high school were not LDS. Not bad for Utah, eh?

I am always shocked at the people who do believe this. But despite my HS friends, I am guessing that I wasn't too different just a few short years ago.

Warning - long, largely irrelevant story ahead:

I think the biggest thing that helped change me was when my friend Chandelle left the church. When she and I met, we fought bitterly over nutritional theories. But then we became more friends than enemies somehow. One day, I was so frustrated, and I emailed her and said "You know, the fact that you are still in the Church is one of the only things that is keeping me in it. I always think, 'if Chandelle can stay in despite X, Y, or Z, surely I can too'." And then she emailed me back and said, "well, er, actually, we are leaving the Church". And I got in on the ground level and was able to go through the experience of her leaving the church with her to some extent. So I got to hear about all the ridiculous assumptions and accusations people would make, and I realized that I never wanted to be the one making those assumptions. And of course I didn't want to dump her as a friend just because she left the Church.

I had another friend who is also a civil engineer. She and Chandelle were the main ones that I would always go to when I had doubts -- my engineer friend could always help explain what I needed to hear, in a way I would understand. When Chandelle left the church, I found out that my other friend had left the church too. I was floored!! We had not been in contact for a long time prior to this, so that's why I hadn't known about it. I felt like she was going to try to deconvert me, so she and I still haven't been in touch much.

Anyway, the point is - seeing those two ladies and their families go through leaving the church taught me a whole bunch about what really happens.

Katie said...

I know you'll see this eventually, Chandelle -- so I have to say it's too bad you blew up your blog where you wrote about all this stuff. It was transformational for me, and I think other people could benefit too!

Katie said...

OK, I know it gets pathetic if I leave 3 comments in a row on my own blog, so I'll stop after this.

"it is something that I am no longer willing to do"

You have been doing this for at least 15 years. I remember when you wanted to join Eckankar, and that was what? 8th grade? I always struggled with my testimony, but I don't recall having concrete problems until the last 5 or so years. I said I have pictured myself leaving the church for 'many years', and I really have no idea how long that's been. 2 years? 10? I just don't remember when this all started for me. But regardless, you've been at it a lot longer!

Chandelle said...

Katie, I've already said that I'm touched that I could help turn someone's heart to empathy for non-believers. Leaving the Church was so traumatic personally, and yet communally, it was also positively enlightening, because I learned some of the depths of human compassion - so many of my friendships were maintained with hardly a blip on the road. Except for the reactions of Jeremy's family (and that the situation hasn't improved, going on three years now...), it was a wholly positive experience as far as the Church itself and its members are concerned. I really felt that I came away loving the Saints more than ever, and having a deeper appreciation for them than I'd ever had as a member. I also gained more LDS friends as an ex-member, which is pretty strange.

Of course, I must admit that many of my positive sentiments were kind of blown with Prop. 8. That was a painful experience for so many people.

One thing I wanted to comment on:

" annoyance with all the requirements you have to fulfill in order to keep your faith."

I understand your comparisons with running, playing a musical instrument and speaking another language, but I don't believe it's entirely equatable. To me, I got to the point where I felt that the Church was packing my time with so many activities and commitments that I didn't have a chance to think about what I was really doing.

I left a long comment but I ended up deleting just went on and on and I don't want to be negative. I just disagree that they are particularly equatable.

I hope that you'll keep writing about these issues. It was certainly cathartic for me to work it out through writing and to receive support from all perspectives.

Chandelle said...

"I felt like she was going to try to deconvert me, so she and I still haven't been in touch much."

I'm not positive who this is, but if it's who I think it is, I think you're right. :)